The purpose-driven “greater good”.

Aractus 06, July, 2010

I’m not a fan of Rick Warren, never have been, never will be. I think he gives Christians a bad name, and that he’s a lukewarm Christian at best. Most of all though, I think he completely fails to preach the good news, and instead preaches a “feel good” gospel filled with practical advice.

It didn’t surprise me at all to hear that Warren wants to work with Muslims, but it’s so counter productive to Christianity I just wonder what his real agenda is. So firstly it’s important to understand what and how he preaches to Christians, and specifically his “PEACE” plan that tackles the “Global Goliaths”, you can read in Rick’s own words here:

  • P – Plant a Church; to tackle “Spiritual Emptiness”.
  • E – Equip servant leaders; to tackle “egocentric leadership”.
  • A – Assist the poor; to tackle poverty.
  • C – Care for the sick; to tackle disease.
  • E – Educate the next generation; to tackle illiteracy.

He then claims that these are the five things that Jesus did; he’s wrong, but we’ll get back to that later. According to Rick, Jesus 1. Planted a Church, 2. Equip Leaders, 3. Cared for the Poor, 4. Healed the sick, 5. He taught.

Firstly, Jesus never planted a church. Never, in fact these were his own words in John 2:19: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jesus compares his ministry to that of Noah! Luke 17:26: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.” Jesus is talking about the future events of his own ministry, clearly not comparing it to “planting a church”, or for that matter any of the other “global goliaths”. In fact the very first thing Jesus does is study the scriptures, he would have done this under a mentor and if we are to follow in Jesus example this should be the very first thing we would do; before “planting a church”, it’s more important. But even then Jesus came to bring us Grace in his name and the Good News, if you were to say that was his primary ministry when he was on Earth (ignoring future events) then it’s still very far from planting a Church.

On the second point of Equipping Leaders, Rick could not be missing the point further than he currently is. Indeed Jesus taught his disciples, but this wasn’t to tackle the kind of “leadership problems” that Rick is rattling on about. The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 1:15-18: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” It’s not the leadership that’s the problem, it’s the teaching – and that’s where Rick goes astray – but more on that later. Just look at the way Jesus chose his disciples – Matthew 4:19 “And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.'” Clearly he’s appealing to Simon Peter and Andrew’s egos! Of course Jesus later says we are to humble ourselves and be last if we were to be first. Not all of this directly translates through to leadership, except the idea of being as a servant to be great.

Actually the sending out is probably where we learn the most about leadership from Jesus. Luke 9:1-2 Jesus calls the twelve and bestows power and authority on them over daemons, disease, and sends them to evangelize and to heal. Luke 9:3-5, Jesus gives them clear instructions: “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” What is interesting though, is next chapter he sends out the 72, and bestows upon them exactly the same instructions of how to go out. Luke 10: 2-12: “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

In any case, the first and primary message derived from that text is follow exactly the plan as set out from God, as opposed to making your own plan. Luke 10:17 “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the daemons are subject to us in your name!'”

I’m not saying that Jesus doesn’t want earnest leadership, I’m saying that the message is to spread the Gospel, it’s not about who or how. And we need to be careful of who we trust to tell us God’s word, we can’t simply take Rick “at his word” we’re supposed to test his message against scripture. In fact Paul warns us against false teachers 1 Timothy 4:1-5 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of daemons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” In fact, the KJV and NIV translate “insincerity of liars” as “lies in hypocrisy”/”hypocritical liars” respectively; and we know that Rick Warren is both a liar and hypocritical which clearly proves his message is not from God – but more on that later. For now the message is that Leadership problems arise from Theological problems, or to be more specific, from not preaching God’s Word/God’s Grace and substituting another message.

We will cover the last three points, but at this point I want to move to Rick’s message to Islam. You may read on it: here, and here. He is speaking to the Islamic Society of North America, and specifically talks about his “PEACE plan”. So now we can see that he believes it’s not only compatible with Christianity, but also with Islam!  “You know as an evangelical pastor, my deepest faith is in Jesus Christ,” Warren stated. “But you also need to know that I am committed not just to what I call the good news, but I am committed to the common good.” These are Rick’s own words. Apparently Rick believes that the Good News is great, but that there’s an even greater good! And what is this “greater good”? Well his PEACE plan, of course! To combat what he thinks is the five biggest problems in the world: spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic diseases, and illiteracy and lack of education. This is why I stated critiquing this message as it is preached to Christians, because now we’re at the point where Rick wants Muslims to also be a part of this “greater good”. So now we’re going to look at it as it is preached to Christians and to Muslims. Not surprisingly the “P” changes, it is no longer “Plant a Church” it is now “Promote Reconciliation”; the “greater good” according to Rick.

  • P – Promote Reconciliation; to tackle “Spiritual Emptiness”.
  • E – Equip servant leaders; to tackle “egocentric leadership”.
  • A – Assist the poor; to tackle poverty.
  • C – Care for the sick; to tackle disease.
  • E – Educate the next generation; to tackle illiteracy.

Rick told Christians that the “P” in PEACE was the most important, the “E” is the next most important, and so forth. Now he has come up with the same list, but without what he called the “most important” calling of Jesus to “Plant a Church”! He said it “always starts with a Church”.

Then he says this:

“You know what I discovered is when you walk down the middle of the road you get hit coming and going.”

We’re not called to walk down the middle of the road, we’re called to walk the long and narrow path. Matthew 7:13-14 “”Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Rick needs to stay on the narrow path, instead of trying to walk in the “middle” of the wide path; also known as fence-sitting it’s also referred to as lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). By his own admission he is not interested in that path.

I think it’s sickening the way in which he portrays faith. What the fuck would Muslims know about “spiritual emptiness”? Excuse my French! What I meant to say was “what the fuck would Muslims know about anything let alone spiritual emptiness”. The greatest threat to Christianity in this lifetime is Islam, I truly believe that.

Moving on to “servant leaders”. Rick needs to learn that Jesus is not considered to be the son of God by Muslims; his ideas of leadership – which are essentially where Rick claims to draw his ideals from – are very different to Muhammad. In fact we know that he sanctions violence in the Qur’an, it’s not even debatable, it’s a fact. Yeah, Christians understand, or should understand, “servant leadership” but that theology is sadly foreign to Islamic Idealists who consider the Bible largely flawed and filled with unreliable teachings.

The last points are purely academic. There is no “greater good”. The Gospel is the ultimate Good. The first and great commandment is: Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” There is no greater good than that. According to Jesus the second greatest commandment is to love thy neighbour (Mark 12:31). There’s no need to go any further than that. One of the rare occasions when the Synoptic Gospels cross with John is on this, John 12:1-8. John 12:4-5: “Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?'” Do not underestimate this verse. Three hundred denarii represents about one full year’s wages, and in fact if you had tithed it would be a little less. Imaging spending three months wages on an engagement ring, in these times, and then compound that to a year’s salary instead of three months. John 12:7-8: “Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.'” I only use this passage to illustrate that there is no greater good. What could a years wages do for the poor?

Rick Warren is a pathological liar. I say this because he lies when telling the truth would be simpler. When Prop 8 was going in California (aka “Californi”) he issued a video statement saying that if you’re a Christian you need to support Prop 8; it’s on You-Tube and freely available to everyone who wants to see it, I’m not lying. On Larry King Live he denied ever supporting Prop 8 saying that he was not an anti-gay activist, that he never once went to a meeting, issued a statement, or blah blah blah. Of course, in the video of Rick Warren he says he asked the presidential candidates point blank “what is your policy on marriage?” He’s a liar. He lies, and I’m no fan of lying. If you lie once, you have to lie 2-3 times to cover that first lie and then 10-12 times to cover the second lie, until you have to keep on lying to everyone forever. Friends I applaud you, I have done things I’m not proud of, but I do certainly do not lie in a futile attempt to further my agenda.

If Rick wants to fight spiritual emptiness he cannot do it with Muslims. That is absurd. Think about it. Yeah, we’re spiritual beings, we’re also sexual beings and what Rick is suggesting is as absurd as seeking advise on sexuality from homosexuals. Without Christ any possible spirituality is empty. Leadership is way out of context, the only leadership Jesus challenged was that of the Jews, he didn’t challenge Rome. The sick? Just how are Muslims supposed to drive out daemons in Jesus name? Excuse my language; how the Fuck are Muslims supposed to exorcise daemons in Jesus Name?

Rick Warren doesn’t preach the Good News; by his own admission he believes in a “greater good”. He doesn’t walk the narrow path, he walks the wide road in the middle! He’s more interested in preaching works (practical ways of serving God) than he is of faith and grace. In fact, he never mentions Grace, Sin or Repentance in the “Purpose Driven Live” or the “Purpose Driven Church”.

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